An Post worker says battery ban is down to ‘our history’

Plus: can debt collectors pursue a late debtor’s offspring?

A reader called Oisín bought a laptop battery online which turned out to be faulty, so he contacted the vendor who asked him to post it back to them in Scotland. "Two weeks after posting there was no sign of a replacement so I mailed them to ask for a status update. They said they had not received my return yet but that they would check again.

“After another two weeks, I went into the post office and asked if they had any record of what happened to it. They had no record but asked what it contained. When I said a laptop battery they said it would have been blocked because anything containing a battery was ‘prohibited’. I pointed out that it had been posted to me by standard mail and that I was just returning it. Moreover, no mention was made of prohibited items when I posted it initially.”

He said that batteries could be posted into Ireland no problem, "but batteries couldn't be posted out of Ireland because of 'our history' (they didn't elaborate on this point but I can only interpret it to mean that An Post treats all Irish people as though we were terrorists."

He was given a form to be returned to the GPO to try to find the package. “I went into the GPO in person and asked customer service how it could be that it was not possible to post any item with a battery (camera, phone, iPod, iPad, laptop, smart watch) out of Ireland. They said that the problem was that they had stopped scanning mail at Dublin airport and therefore none of the airlines would accept any mail containing a battery from them. I pointed out that this was ridiculous.”


He points out that the best case scenario would be that An Post recovers his package, "but then I am still left with no way to return it! Surely there are hundreds of thousands of electronic items delivered to Ireland every year and a small percentage of these are always going to be faulty – there must be some way to return them. Customer service said I would have to drive up to Newry and pop it in a post box there and it would be fine. I find this absurd – there's no way to post electronics from Ireland other than going abroad? So I'm wondering if Pricewatch might have better luck in getting a sensible answer from An Post as I get the distinct impression that the general staff have no idea why this new regulation was introduced (it seems to date from 2013) and they seem to be making up their own myths to explain it."

He then suggests questions he would like answered:

1. Why is it safe to post battery-containing electronics into Ireland via standard post but not safe to return them via the same means?

2. If it is indeed prohibited, then what are people who receive faulty goods supposed to do (other than drive to Newry)?

We contacted An Post and a spokeswoman confirmed that lithium batteries cannot be posted out of the Republic. “The reason is that the airlines transporting mail will not accept them. And the same restriction applies in most postal administrations worldwide.”

She said the inclusion of lithium batteries in mail has been prohibited by the Universal Postal Union Convention, the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Aviation Authority for many years.

“Indeed airline regulations were further tightened in early 2016. Once a product of this nature is declared by a customer, it must be refused acceptance at the time of posting, as is the case with aerosols, liquids and other prohibited items.”

She said some courier companies will provide ‘special handling’ transit services for such items but they impose huge restrictions and they charge accordingly.”

The spokeswoman said she was sorry there wasn’t better news for this customer “and that the reasons for the restrictions were not made clear from the start. Assuming he included a return address on the original package, the item should be returned to him in due course.”

Can debt collectors pursue a late debtor's offspring?
A reader called Catherine emailed us with a question. "My granny passed away in April this year. My mother, who is in her late 60s, rang around my granny's creditors to let them know she had passed. She left no estate behind. Bord Gáis have now changed the bill into my mother's name and have sent a debt collection agency to collect the money. I thought that a person's debt died with them?" Catherine says the amount owed was "a small amount of money – between €100 and €200. However, my mum does not have that money to pay out on a bill that is not hers."

Her mother rang Bord Gáis when the debt collection company contacted her. “They said it was her debt, that her name was on the account. She reminded them that she only rang them to notify them of her mother’s death, and did not give permission for the account to be changed into her name. They are still coming after her and she’s a little panicked. Can you advise?”

We contacted Bord Gáis. A spokeswoman said that “as with outstanding debts of any nature in these situations, we notify the executor of the estate of any outstanding balances. It is then up to the executor to discharge the balance if there are funds available. This particular issue was caused by an error when our agent incorrectly added [our reader’s mother] to the account. We have instructed our debt team not to contact her again.” She apologised for “any inconvenience and upset caused to the family during this time”.